Gear Review: TSL 438 Access Snowshoes

For those who prefer vertical to distance, the 438 is your snowshoe.

[best for the steeps]

You: Search out the steepest slopes for your backcountry fun. Your snowshoe: the sleek 438. “When you want to go straight up or straight down, these rock!” exclaims our tester. Credit the unique two-way lift system: Like many alpine-focused snowshoes, the 438 offers a flip-up heel-lift bar to relieve stress while climbing. But the unique part of the binding system is the down component. The footplate swings down through the decking so your heel can actually drop below it, allowing more comfort, traction, and control during steep descents. The molded plastic snowshoes have a unique deck shape: They curve down around the edges to create a concave surface underneath, which strengthens the deck (arches are stronger than flat surfaces) and increases contact (a curved surface between two points has more surface area than a flat one) with the snow for better flotation with minimal material. The bindings include underfoot plates that run the length of your boots and a locking heel brace that adjusts from men’s size 6 to 12 boots. (There are no volume limitations—so any type of boot works—but if you fall outside of the size range, this snowshoe won’t work for you.) With your foot strapped securely to the plate, there is zero risk of lateral sliding. Limitations: The 438 is designed for climbing in consolidated snow; in powder, flotation was not adequate, despite the increased surface area of the concave decking. $199; 25 inches;

4 lbs. 5 oz.;